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Another casualty of the pandemic? Women's health

Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

"I have a partner who is high-risk, so I don't want to bring anything home to him," said Sylmar resident Monica Gaya, 44, who put off scheduling a follow-up appointment after an abnormal mammogram last fall. "I feel like the risk of catching COVID is greater by going into places where people are more likely to be sick."

Gaya, who has a family history of cancer, was "definitely concerned" about the abnormal screening but said it can be hard to put herself above all other needs.

"Women's care is not a priority in society even when there is no pandemic going on," she said. "The pandemic just pushes it further onto a back burner."

Others, such as 29-year-old Raneq Barber, described similar debates about whether to seek care. Barber has asthma and high blood pressure, two underlying conditions that may increase her risk of a severe case of COVID-19. She made the choice to delay a women's wellness appointment she had scheduled at the start of the pandemic, thinking "it'd be a few weeks or a month."

"It's been a year and I still don't feel safe hanging out in a doctor's office," she said.

In January, more than 75 organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, signed a statement endorsing the goal of resuming checkups and cancer screenings during the pandemic, citing "distressing trends" that indicate many cancers are going undiagnosed and untreated.

 

"We urge people across the country to talk with their healthcare provider to resume regular primary care checkups, recommended cancer screening and evidence-based cancer treatment to lessen the negative impact the pandemic is having on identifying and treating people with cancer," the statement said.

Richardson said she is optimistic numbers will continue to improve as hospitals and healthcare facilities regain some sense of balance, and as people become more comfortable with the idea of returning to regular care.

Some women aren't there yet.

Molly Codner, 30, has needed a checkup ever since she received an abnormal Pap smear last summer, but like many Southern Californians, the trauma of the last year still weighs heavily on her mind: Nearly a dozen people she knows have had COVID-19.

"I know I should get another check soon," she said, "but the anxiety of COVID feels like more of a priority than the anxiety of cervical cancer."

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